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Music Connection, Volume III, Number 19 (09/13/1984), Lindsey Buckingham < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

Music Connection, Volume III, Number 19 (09/13/1984), Lindsey Buckingham

Music Connection, Vol. VIII, No. 19, September 13-September 26, 1984

Lindsey Buckingham
One-Man Band With a Bound-up Heart
by Bud Scoppa

Lanky Lindsey Buckingham, 34-year-old musical artist and eligible bachelor (thatís right, gals!), ambles into the Kragen Management offices above Sunset for another interview. His Eraserhead-style coiff is messed around in normal-guy disarray-his mind and mouth have to work, but his look is off-duty. As he settles down over the obligatory chip & dip, Buckingham hunches his wiry frame forward, head bowed, elbows on knees, Dorito-laden fingers sketching patterns in the air as he talks-he seems at once relaxed and intense.

Buckingham speaks in full-blown paragraphs punctuated by in-turned laughter-heís unusually eloquent and open for a rock star-especially one whoís been very much in the public eye for a decade. But Lindsey Buckingham is a very unusual rock star. It was he, after all, (with the help of then-partner Stevie Nicks), who, after hitching his wagon to Fleetwood Mac, transformed the journeyman British band into the quintessential California Seventies supergroup, then masterminded the bandís esoteric garage-style epic, Tusk, to the bafflement of Big Mac fans and Warner Bros. staffers the world over. ("Iíve been told," he says, "that when the Warner Bros. people heard the Tusk album for the first time, they all saw their Christmas bonuses flying right out the window.") Through it all, he elicited critical raves as few mass-appeal artists have, and these raves have more recently been validated and intensified by a pair of unorthodox but highly accessible solo albums Law and Order and the new Go Insane, each recorded primarily in the seclusion of his 24-track garage studio, situated high in the Bel Air hills.

Buckinghamís past is well-documented, his present is bustling, and his future is filled with question marks.

MC: This solo approach to record making seems to be catching on, with you and Prince happening.

LB: He used to come and see us play. Maybe he got it from me! (laughs). But when you work in a group-especially one like Fleetwood Mac-itís like making a movie in the sense that itís quite a conscious process. The verbalizing is far more intense-you have to talk it out, go through all the links in the chain just to get from point A to point B. Itís a far more political process. Itís also far more chaotic and impersonal because itís so collective.

Working on you own, on the other hand, is like painting, because you have a canvas that is blank and youíre in a room throwing stuff on. As opposed to a conscious process, itís far more subconscious and intuitive. And itís an intimate process, because, at some point while youíre throwing paint on, the work is going to develop not only a life of its own but a will of its own. If you are sensitive to whatís going on, thereís gonna be an exchange at some point where your will is gonna shut down and the work is gonna start pulling you. Once you start seeing whatís going on, itís gonna lead you to an ultimate conclusion. In some ways, that approach is a lot more satisfying.

I feel that the reason to create, the main reason, anyway-there are fringe benefits, like money and stuff-in the purely philosophical sense is to experience the process of creating. The end result should show what youíve learned during that particular process, during that piece of work-and what youíve learned should be transmitted to the observer or the listener. That whole ethic of creating to experience the process, and feeling that if you are any good you know you can be better, and that itís your duty to pursue excellence or to pursue improvement . . . relentlessly. Talent on its own is meaningless unless youíve got passion for what youíre doing, a discipline, and a gratitude for your gifts. And that whole ethic, having said that, seems to translate more to the painting than to the movie-even though thereís room in this world for both forms. Iím just so involved with the process, and Iím in love with it.

MC: Did you fall in love with it through the Tusk experience?

LB: I had done a lot of that much earlier. I used to play all the instruments myself when I was like 18 or 19; I had a Sony two-track and I used to do sound-on-sound. Then, years after that, when Stevie and I were living together, I had an old professional Ampex four-track that we used to work out all our demos on. In fact, almost all the songs of Stevieís and mine from the first Fleetwood Mac album we were on [Fleetwood Mac in 1975] were all demoed out, which made it very easy to just throw Ďem on and add the rhythm section and run with it. So, in a sense, it was something I was getting back to and reapplying to what I had learned in the years in-between.

MC: Could you sketch out your solo recording process in the sense of how it differs from the typical band recording process? For example, do you work in a painterly way, on one piece at a time, as opposed to tracking?

LB: The way we did Go Insane is weíd always start with a drum track and just build it up. Quite often, youíve got a finished product in your mindís eye and you try to get as close to that as possible.

MC: In terms of a piece of music or a thought-out song?

LB: In terms of a record. The melody you start off with is often not the melody you finish up with, and that has to do with the work developing a life of its own: the point at which your original ideas for melody become superfluous in terms of what youíve done so far. Often, youíre just working with colors and atmosphere. I consider myself a colorist in that way. So youíve gotta have that kind of flexibility. And that sense of flexibility is also much more difficult to maintain when youíre working with a group.

MC: Are the thematic aspects of the songs present initially? The lyrics and the coloration that lends the lyrics their import?

LB: Lyrically, what happens is critics tend to assume that the creator of the piece of music was in total control, whereas, I think creators of music tend to come up with stuff off the tops of their heads-or maybe by the skin of their teeth! Itís more of a subconscious thing, not that it doesnít have a meaning on some level.

MC: Not at all-thatís where meaning most often comes from.

LB: But whether or not you say, "This is the way I planned it out and forced my will on it"-thatís just not the way it works, usually. So, if I had to describe what the entire album was about, I might be able to approach some things, but I donít think I could, really.

MC: So youíre just as much in the dark as everybody else.

LB: In a sense. I know what circumstances triggered what feelings and what feelings triggered what songs or lyrics.

MC: Are you writing about real life?

LB: Iím writing about-or around, anyway-a lot of experiences Iíd had in a relationship a couple of years previous to embarking on this album. Iím writing about insanity: What is insanity, and the fact that the definition of insanity is probably relative to your circumstances. If youíre in a rock band, for example, what constitutes acceptable behavior might be enough to get you committed if youíre working a nine-to-five job. Another thing [the albumís] saying is that everyone goes a little mad from time to time, that itís okay to do that-in fact, it can be cathartic to do that as long as you understand the context and as long as it doesnít get you in trouble in your particular situation. And, if youíre around someone who doesnít understand that, and theyíre taking it a little too far, and if youíre a part of that, then youíre gonna go a little insane right along with Ďem. Theyíre gonna test your sense of reality. So the album is about experiencing all the grays when nothing seems black and white, or right or wrong. Thatís one thread, I would say.

MC: There are a couple of songs on Go Insane that seem to specifically flutter around what you just explained. In "I Must Go," for instance, thereís the recurring line, "Hey, little girl, leave the little drug alone," which seems like a kind of Greek chorus popping up behind the conversation. Itís a breakup song, right?

LB: To me, itís about a point in time, waiting around as long as you can for things to work themselves out, which you can do for an awfully long time. And at some point, that commitment can become no less than a form of self-destruction. At some point, youíve gotta let go, and, especially when youíre stuck in all those grays, itís hard to know when to turn it back into black and white. But there is a point, when you have bonds like that, where, if you donít cut them, theyíre gonna burst.

MC: A couple aspects of the song seem to intensify what youíre saying: first, the sense conveyed in the lyric that thereís still some retrospective caring, some advice being given; and second, thereís a liberating quality in the melody-maybe itís a big sigh of relief.

LB: Yeah, the chorus is definitely opened up into that. The A and B sections build tension, and the chorus is the release.

MC: Weíre talking about a pop song here, but it seems to have a lot of dimension. Youíre using a conventional theme-the breakup-and youíre not doing anything particularly revolutionary musically, and yet the total effect is a bit surreal. Going back to your solo recording process, the whole thing starts, then, in your home studio-thatís where the ideas get hatched and developed. At what point did you take the tapes to Cherokee Studios?

LB: About halfway through. Actually, some of the things were done totally in my home studio. "Play In The Rain" was even engineered by me. The first version, the weird one. [There are two versions on the album.] The "D.W Suite" thing, which was written a couple of days after Dennis Wilson died, was done when we were still working in the garage. I just called up Gordon Fordyce, my engineer, and said, "Iím gonna take a week off and work up here by myself. And I put that whole piece together in about six days up there. I canít say itís totally about Dennis Wilson, but the way I reacted to his death brought about a whole set of feelings having to do with him, with Brian, with myself, even, on some levels. But "Go Insane" had just about everything on it except for the lead vocal. We didnít want to do lead vocals up there.

MC: For the sake of clarity?

LB: Thatís part of it. But we just got to a point where we felt it was important to get out of that room. Because we were starting to get a little stale in the way we were hearing it. What happens is when you take the same music into a different situation, youíre gonna react to it differently. Another obvious reason was we were starting to run out of tracks. I recorded on a Studer 24-track up at my house, and when we got low on tracks, we transferred everything over to a 40-track Stevens that Roy Thomas Baker leases, and that opened up the whole thing.

MC: One thing that seems to set off these altogether solo projects-at least it did in the pre-electronic-drum era-is a certain rhythmic feel emanating from a non-drummer, which can be really disarming, in the case of early Todd Rundgren, for example. Thereís a similar effect in your stuff.

LB: Yeah. The last album was more that way. It was trying to be like a bunch of kids who were on the verge of their abilities-cuz a lot of the early rock was that way. Not necessarily getting every beat right, but capturing that innocence. This album is less so. I didnít use any real drums on this album. A lot of the time I used Fairlight drums, so you do get a human feel. Thereís some Linn stuff on there, too.

MC: Do you come from an academic background? You come across as being well-educated.

LB: I wouldnít say so. My mother and father both graduated from college, but they werenít particularly intellectual by any means. I donít have much formal education at all. I graduated from high school and was in junior college, which is not much better than high school, for about a year-and-a-half. In fact, the whole band Stevie and I were in at that time, [Fritz], dropped out together. I never took any lessons on guitar. Itís all been sort of a self-educating process. Actually, I grew up as a competitive swimmer. My brother was in the í68 Olympics. And we were very sportsy. I grew up in sort of an upper-middle-class society; we belonged to a country club in Northern California, all that stuff.

MC: Do you still swim?

LB: I do laps, but I donít go crazy with it. Youíve gotta do something to keep the juices flowing, especially the older you get. For years I didnít exercise at all, and now Iím finding that I donít even want to smoke weed anymore. You sort of have those lapses, but all that stuff that seemed to work in the music-making process-it seems like itís starting not to work. In fact, the opposite seems to be working for me now. More ideas are coming to me when Iím getting a lot of rest and exercising, just taking care of myself.

MC: Itís funny how widespread that attitude is becoming in the musical community these days. The same people who would stay up all night snorting coke, smoking pot, and drinking two six packs of beer while making a record-

LB: Well, Iíve done that. (laughs)

MC: --would now be frightened of reliving that experience, which in retrospect seems nightmarish. People are starting to appreciate getting up early in the morning rather than looking at the morning from the other end.

LB: I know. God, thatís really ugly. The physical and mental are so interlocked that if you are physically depressed, youíre gonna be mentally depressed as well. And I just donít want to be mentally depressed myself. I donít know that I wouldíve chosen that kind of lifestyle had I not gotten into a group whose collective will dictated that. And thereís not much you can do. You can either say, "Iím not gonna play," or you can pretty much play ball. In that situation, you really have to jump in . . . . Maybe I wouldíve anyway, but I really doubt it.

MC: So along with an artistic voice, youíve found a lifestyle.

LB: A personal ethic, not only musically but otherwise, that seems to go along with that.

MC: How do your days go? I mean, whatís your plan, whatís your routine, Lindsey?

LB: (laughs) I donít have a lot of free time. We finished the record, then I went up to see my mom for a week-and-a-half, and I came back and started doing this.

MC: You mean promoting the album?

LB: Yeah. And when Iím all done . . . If it were totally up to me, I would love to jump back in and start another record, cuz I have a whole bunch of new ideas-I feel like Iím sort of on a roll. But whether or not Iíll be able to is another question. Thereís still a thing called Fleetwood Mac, and we have to sit down and talk about that. I donít feel ready to totally disregard the needs of the whole at this point, but Iím not sure what the needs of the whole are yet. Iím not sure what the collective direction of the group is. For years, I tried to get Mick and everyone to listen to the Talking Heads and groups that I thought were interesting at that time, and no one was interested. I think that they were totally threatened by it. So, now, I have no idea what Mick or any of the people like. That scares me a lot, because you can only do so much!

Iíll tell you, it was really reassuring and reaffirming to sort of punch my way out of the Fleetwood Mac microcosm. So, coming away from that project-without judging how good the record is or how well itís gonna do-reaffirmed my feeling of effectiveness in the studio-reaffirmed a lot of things.

As for the band, I donít wanna be an ass and I donít wanna be selfish-Iíve always felt a strong sense of altruism in regard to the group. And if you want to capsulize it without getting too far into it, Iíd say Iím looking at things slightly less altruistically right now.

MC: Youíve been characterized as somewhat reclusive.

LB: I think I am. I put my phones on hold a lot-Iím not a big phone animal.

MC: You seem like the kind of guy whoíd be perfectly willing to spend a lot of time by himself and find lots of ways to amuse himself.

LB: Yeah. I get real lonely right now cuz Iím not really dating. Iím putting all my energies into this. I find it difficult at this point in my life to get behind going to Le Dome or something. I think, in a sense, if you kind of bind your heart up in that way for a while, that your spirit can be liberated in other ways . . . in ways that are perhaps more important right now . . . .

Thanks to Lesley Thode for the submission.

Date: 1984-09-13         Number of views: 1526

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